These days, a normal-sized adult is one shorter than 6’1″ (185 cm) with a body mass index (BMI) under 25. People who are taller or heavier suffer unique musculoskeletal challenges. For instance, both are more likely to suffer from lower back pain than ‘average sizes’. Therefore, one’s body type should be considered as they shop for ergonomic seating. Which type of chair is best for your body type? Here are the ergonomic seating challenges — and solutions — for overweight, obese, tall, and big & tall sizes.
The point of an ergonomic chair is to support good posture while sitting for long periods. Adjustable lumbar support keeps the spine in alignment. Then, adjustable armrests provide extra bracing to hold the spine up against gravity.
Feet planted firmly on the floor completes the trifecta. That aligns a seated body into healthy neutral sitting posture. For best results, it’s important to choose the right type of ergonomic chair, and also the right size.
The two types are mid-back office chairs and full-back gaming chairs. Both offer ‘big and tall’ seating options.
However, ‘big and tall’ can refer to three very different body types: big, tall, or big and tall. Each type has unique musculoskeletal challenges. Understanding these will likely have an impact on your choice of ergonomic seating.
Global Big & Tall Size Averages
Most chair manufacturers build their chairs roughly around global size averages:
- Tall: men 6’1″ and women 5’7″ are considered taller than normal people.
- Big: refers to body weight. A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is overweight; over 30 is obese.
- Big and tall: a person taller than 6’1″ with a BMI greater than 25.
Definition of ‘Tall’
What’s the definition of a ‘tall’ person? Based on this massive Norwegian study(1), it’s 170 cm (5’7″) for women and 185 cm (6’1″) for men. Once people reach those heights or taller, back pain becomes more prevalent.
The study compared 6545 adults with chronic lower back pain (LBP) vs 18784 without pain (divided into male and female groups). Associations between body height and LBP were evaluated. Potential confounders were adjusted for (such as BMI, age, and activity levels). Results:
Women taller than 170 cm (5’7″) and men taller than 185 cm (6’1″) are more likely to suffer from lower back pain than shorter sizes.
These numbers correspond with average global sizes. For instance, the tallest men in the world (on average) are all from European countries, with Dutch men the tallest of all(2).
However, the average height of Dutchmen is still below 185 cm — the threshold for higher LBP risks. The logical conclusion: men above 185 cm are beyond the norm. That qualifies them as ‘tall’.
With that in mind, here are the tallest and shortest male average sizes by country:
- Netherlands 6’0” (183.8 cm)
- Montenegro 6’0” (183.2 cm)
- Denmark 5’10” (182.6 cm)
- Norway 5’10” (182.4 cm)
- Serbia 5’10” (182 cm)
- Indonesia 5’1” (158 cm)
- Bolivia 5’2” (160 cm)
- Philippines 5’2” (161.9 cm)
- Cambodia 5’3” (162.5 cm)
- Vietnam 5’3” (162.1 cm)
Why are Europeans so much taller than Asians and South Americans? Some claim cheese is the answer. In the mid-1800s, the average Dutchman was 5’4″. As dairy consumption rose over the next 150 years, people got taller(2).
Global Height Regression
Zooming out to global averages, we see that women’s height peaked in the 1970s. Meanwhile, average male heights peaked in the 80s before regressing.
A global height regression since the 1980s matches up with the rise of PC computing — and longer sitting times. At first, sitting with poor posture causes a slouch. That makes people seem shorter than they actually are.
But over time, excessive slouching will reprogram your muscle memories. Then, your spine will flatten and compress(3) in places, making people physically shorter than they once were!
Definition of ‘Big’
A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese. Use this BMI calculator to figure out yours. As an example, I stand 5’10” and weigh 170 pounds. My 24.4 BMI is (barely) in the ‘normal’ range.
Globally, 650 million adults are obese. 50% of American adults are projected to have obesity by 2030(4). The obesity epidemic has increased rates of weight-related diseases. These include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.
During the Covid pandemic, obesity emerged as a significant contributor to more severe infection outcomes. That has brought new attention to the broad impact obesity has on health.
Weight Gain By Age
Brigham Your University researchers recently detailed the severity of America’s obesity epidemic(5). Over a 10-year period, they tracked 13800 American adults. Key findings:
- Half of U.S. adults gained 5% or more body weight over a decade.
- One-third gained 10% or more.
- One-fifth gained 20% or more.
The greatest gains in weight were among young and middle-aged adults. People in their 50s and 60s gained the least:
- 17.6 pounds between their 20s and 30s
- 14.3 pounds between their 30s and 40s
- 9.5 pounds between their 40s and 50s
- 4.6 pounds between their 50s and 60s
Adults who gain these averages during each decade will have gained more than 45 pounds. That pushes them into the obese category.
At present, the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC estimate that 42.4% of U.S. adults as currently obese. That’s up from 30.5% measured in 2000.
Big & Tall Musculoskeletal Challenges
Modern desk workers of all sizes face the same battery of musculoskeletal challenges. These can be overcome with proper usage of ergonomic equipment.
Failure to address each problem will worsen misalignments. That will increase the severity of long-term outcomes:
- Unsupported sitting = tight lower back.
- Excessive phone use = hyper-extended neck.
- Tight back + tilted neck = anterior pelvic tilt.
- Misaligned spine = chronic pain and limited mobility.
- Sedentary lifestyle = weight gain, depression, and serious diseases.
Taller people and bigger people both face additional challenges — on top of the ones above.
Physical Challenges For Tall People
Our definition of ‘tall’ includes all men 6’1″ or taller. A big positive for tall sizes is that they develop larger bones to compensate for their height.
For instance, tall people have larger knees with more cartilage(6). More cartilage plus larger bones significantly reduce the risk of knee problems and pain.
In a similar fashion, taller people also develop larger spines. However, these are rarely in proportion: they’re often longer but not wider. That makes it harder for core muscles to stabilize longer limbs(7). As muscles tire, good posture collapses.
On top of that, most office furniture is designed for normal sizes. Tall people forced to use ill-fitting gear are more vulnerable to a forward head tilt. Because of these issues, long periods of sitting become problematic for people taller than 6’1″ in three main ways:
- Harder to sit straight: longer (but not thicker) spines work back muscles harder.
- Greater back pain risk: tall people are more likely to slouch.
- More prone to varicose veins: scientists are unsure if this is gravity or gene-related(8).
Physical Challenges For The Obese
Unlike people over 6’1″, thicker, shorter sizes do not develop larger bones to help lift bigger bodies. In fact, studies(9) have shown that the heavier a person gets, the weaker their spine becomes!
It found that people with a BMI greater than 35.0 were 63.1% weaker in lower joint strength than lesser BMI groups. With weaker joint strength comes greater musculoskeletal stress and higher pain probabilities.
The obese are also the most vulnerable to heel fat pad syndrome(10). Carrying more weight thickens and stiffens the heel pad and surrounding plantar fascia.
The loss of elasticity reduces shock absorption. As a result, the soles of the feet become inflamed (from walking or standing). Since heels are the first point of contact with the ground, dysfunctions affect the entire body’s mobility.
For instance, relationships between obesity and musculoskeletal pain have been reported in children as young as 2 years old. In overweight kids, the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain is 26% higher than in their normal-weight counterparts(11).
Obesity also foreshadows more serious problems later in life. Young adults 18-29 with a BMI over 35 are 80% more likely to suffer knee pain later in life.
- Suffer from chronic musculoskeletal pain
- Lower quality of life scores
- Limited physical mobility
- Suffer chronic musculoskeletal pain in several spots
- Lower quality of life scores
- Foot-related dysfunctions
- Limited physical mobility
* ‘Quality of life’ is a self-rating of one’s health, comfort, and happiness.
S, M, and XL Chair Sizing Benchmarks
Secretlab and Herman Miller are the only two brands with flagship chairs available in three sizes. These provide accurate industry benchmarks for small, medium, and XL chair sizes.
Broadly, full-back gaming chairs (like the Titan) support taller sizes and larger weight capacities. In contrast, most Aeron-style office chairs support shorter heights with lower weight limits.
Secretlab Titan Evo 2022
Secretlab’s Titan Evo 2022 Series chairs come in small, medium, and XL versions. Most gaming chairs on the market come in one of these general sizes.
As an example, I stand 5’10” and fit in both the medium and XL Titan chairs. However, by adhering to the size ratings, I enjoy a much better fit in a medium-sized one.
Here are the dimensions of each size. Learn more in this Titan Evo 2022 Sizing Guide.
|Specification||Titan 2022 Small||Medium||XL|
|Seat (total inner width)||17.7″ (W) x 18.9″ (D)||18.5″ (W) x 19.3″ (D)||19.3″ (W) x 19.7″ (D)|
|Backrest||20″ (W) x 32.3″ (H)||21″ (W) x 33.5″ (H)||22″ (W) x 35″ (H)|
|Seat height||17.7″ to 20.5″||17.7″ to 20.5″||18.1″ to 21.9″|
|Size rating||4’11” to 5’6″; 285 pounds||5’7″ to 6’2″; 285 pounds||5’11” to 6’9″; 395 pounds|
Herman Miller Aeron Remastered
Those who prefer mid-back office-style chairs can look to the Herman Miller Aeron for similar benchmarks. Like the Titan, it comes in small, medium, and XL sizes:
Notably, Aeron chairs support shorter sizes than the Titan does, plus lower weight capacities.
|Aeron Size A||Size B||Size C|
|Seat||15.75″ (W) x 16.75″ (D)||17″ (W) x 16.75″ (D)||18.25″ (W) x 18.5″ (D)|
|Backrest||20.25″(W) x 21″ (H)||21.5″ (W) x 22″ (H)||22.75″(W) x 23″ (H)|
|Seat Height||14.75″ to 19″||16″ to 20.4″||16″ to 20.5″|
|Size Rating||4’10” to 5’9″; 300 pounds||5’2″ to 6’6″; up to 350 pounds||5’2″ to 6’6″; up to 350 pounds|
Best Big And Tall Ergonomic Seating
The previous section clarified the unique musculoskeletal challenges faced by big people and tall ones. This section matches different XL sizes with different ergonomic seating types. The two options are mid-back office-style chairs or full-back racing-style ones.
What’s the difference? The former provides better physiological support by forcing users into upright postures at all times. That’s a nice fit for shift-style office work.
The latter supports upright postures plus casual ones. That’s a better choice for all-day sitting support. Beyond deskwork, a gaming chair also provides support for chilling out, watching movies, or even napping!
These extras are especially useful for the obese. Mid-back chairs force users to sit upright at all times. Those who struggle to do so can instead use a gaming chair. With a backrest recline of 110° or more, gravity holds the spine in place — while giving back muscles a rest.
Gaming Vs Office Chair Comfort Factors
Best Ergonomic Seating For Tall People
People who are taller than 6’1″ have unique physical challenges while sitting for long periods. Here are the key problems and ergonomic solutions:
|Longer — but not thicker — spines makes it harder to sit with good posture.||Good adjustable lumbar support|
|More likely to slouch (and suffer from back pain).||Maintain neutral sitting postures|
|Prone to developing varicose veins.||Robust movement while sitting|
The perfect seating for people taller than 6’1″ should support pristine posture with good posture support. It should also provide opportunities for a seated body to move.
These aspects are best supported in a premium mid-back ergonomic office chair. These chairs have limited reclines that force users to sit straight at all times. With no option to slouch, then ensures consistently good posture — in theory.
The problem is that some people with poor posture may struggle to sit straight at first. To ease into that habit, a full-back gaming chair makes sense. Beyond supporting good posture, these also let users indulge in more casual, relaxed postures.
Best Ergonomic Chairs For Tall People
The best seating for tall sizes should support good posture and encourage plenty of seated movement. Here are our top-3 picks for those taller than 6’1″:
Supports sizes up to 6’2″ with a 300-pound weight capacity. It prioritizes support to the upper back — lumbar support is secondary. This is a bit trickier to master than traditional chairs. Success gets you the best (seated) upper back and neck support in the world — ideal for tall people with poor neck posture.
Embody Gaming Chair Review | Buy: $1795
Supports sizes 5’10” to 6’6″ with a 350-pound weight capacity. Highlights include ultra-adaptive mesh upholstery, robust sync-tilt functionality, and foolproof posture support. Hard bladed edges lining the seat make it uncomfortable to put your feet up. With both feet planted, sitting straight in becomes almost effortless.
Aeron Remastered Review | Buy: $1695
Fits sizes 5’11” to 6’9″ with support for 395 pounds. It has better lumbar support then either Herman Miller chair — plus the freedom to sit as you like. Those with the discipline to maintain sound posture habits can enjoy healthy, versatile, all-day sitting support.
Titan Evo 2022 Review | Buy: $569
Best Ergo Seating For Overweight Sizes
The ‘overweight’ group are people under 6’1″ with a BMI of 25 or more. Here are some examples:
People in this group do not need specialty seating. They will fit in most chairs that are designed for average sizes. However, many gaming chairs (and a few office chairs) have bladed seat edges that restrict leg movement.
Those with thick legs or wide hips should instead look for seating with flat edges, rather than bladed ones.
Best Chairs For Short, Thick Sizes
Our top-rated pro esports chairs are all designed to fit average sizes. The top-2 models both have flat, wide, spacious seats suitable for thick sizes.
Here are the Titan (top-rated pro esports chair) and Embody(ranked #2) sizing specs compared. Both are a good fit for overweight sizes:
|Measurement||Titan EVO medium||Herman Miller Embody|
|Seat||18.5″ (W) x 19.3″ (D)||21.25″ (W) x 15-18″ (D)|
|Backrest||21″ (W) x 33.5″ (H)||14″ (W) x 23.5″ (H)|
|Seat height||17.7″ to 20.5″||16″ to 20.5″|
|Size rating||5’7″ to 6’2″; 285 pounds||5’4″ to 6’2″; 300 pounds|
|Price||$519 from Secretlab||$1795 from Herman Miller|
There are also several cheaper ergonomic options with wide seats priced under $250.
All support people of average height (6’1″ or less) with flat, wide, spacious seats. Here are three popular examples:
Fits sizes 5’3″ to 6’1″ with a 400-pound weight capacity. Highlights: a flat, spacious seat (21.7″ wide); 2D arms; 2-year warranty. Use the coupon code ChairsFX to get 20% off.
Knight Series Review | Buy: $183
$229.99 (code ChairsFX)
Supports sizes 5’3″ to 5’10″ with a 250-pound weight capacity. Highlights: height-adjustable lumbar, 1D arms, 100-140° recline. The downside is mediocre durability: expect one year of full-time use before it needs replacing.
Hyken Review | Buy: $200.81
Supports sizes 5’5″ to 6’0″ with a 330-pound weight limit and a mega-wide 22″ seat. Features include 3D arms, a 1-year warranty, and a range of Marvel superhero styles. Choose from Deadpool, Spiderman, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and more!
Rap Series Review | Buy: $209.98
For more chairs that fit thick, overweight sizes shorter than 6’1″, see this feature:
Best Ergonomic Seating For Obese People
Overweight people are those shorter than 6’1″ with a BMI over 25. When they hit a BMI of 30 or more, they’re considered obese. Examples:
|6’0″||183 pounds||221 pounds|
|5’10”||174 pounds||209 pounds|
|5’7″||160 pounds||192 pounds|
|5’5″||150 pounds||180 pounds|
People in the obese category suffer from weaker joint strength, chronic musculoskeletal pain, foot problems, and a general sense of malaise. Between gaming and office chairs, the former is (in my opinion) a better option for the obese.
The problem with mid-back office chairs is that they force you to sit upright at all times. Obese people with weak joint strength may find it hard to hold up their excess weight for long.
In contrast, a full-back gaming chair gives heavy bodies the option to ease into good posture habits. If sitting straight is too difficult at first, you can deepen the recline and let gravity do the work.
As your muscles adapt to sitting straight, gradually reduce the recline until you’re able to sit in a perfect neutral posture. That includes a 25-45° lower back curve and a 0° neck tilt.
Best Ergonomic Chairs For Short, Obese Sizes
Most XL office chairs are for big and short sizes under 6’1″. There are no premium options — all are cheaper models with basic ergonomic features.
On the flip side, several premium XL gaming chairs are specially designed for shorter, thicker sizes. Here are three excellent options covering both genres:
This model fits sizes 5’7″ to 6’7″ with 400-pound support and a seat 23″ (W) x 20.3″ (D). With the lumbar pillow in place, the seat depth reduces by around 5″. That makes it a decent fit for those with shorter legs. Highlights: 4D arms, multifunction tilt, 5-year warranty.
Master Max Review | Buy: $531.43
This monster supports 550 pounds with premium features, a 2-year warranty, and a seat 22″ (W) x 20.3″ (D). With the lumbar pillow, that reduces to around 15″, making it a nice fit for thick bodies with short legs. Use the code ChairsFX to get 20% off.
Flash XL Review | Buy now: $399
This old-school design fits sizes 5’6″ to 6’0″ with a 22″ seat width and support for 400 pounds. Like most XL office chairs, it has basic features. These include 2D arms, adjustable lumbar support, and a rocking feature with a 20° range. Despite the low price, the warranty is top-rate: 3 years on upholstery and lifetime on parts!
Space Seating XL Review | Buy: $387.11
Best Big & Tall Ergonomic Seating
People considered big and tall would be taller than 6’1″ with a BMI of at least 25 or more (overweight). Those with a BMI over 30 would qualify as obese. Both groups have two types of seating to consider:
- Big & Tall Gaming Chairs: full-featured racing-style gaming chairs ranging in price from $569 to $399. Most support 400 pounds at fit sizes from 6’0″ to up to 7’0″.
- Cheap XL Gaming Chairs: full-featured chairs with 400-pound support, one-year warranties, and prices under $300.
- Big & Tall Ergonomic Office Chairs: most cost between $250-$350 and come with basic features (2D arms, 1-year warranty, etc).
Combined, these two categories contain the world’s largest ergonomic chairs. Here are the four biggest:
|Model||Seat Size||Size rating||Price||Key features|
|BestOffice 500-pound Chair||27.4″ (W) x 24.4″ (D)||5’6″ to 6’2″, 500 pounds||$159.97 on Amazon||1D arms, adjustable lumbar, 30-day money-back guarantee.|
|Flash Furniture Hercules||25″ (W) x 22″ (D)||5’5″ to 6’3″, 500 pounds||$392.00 on Amazon||1D arms, adjustable lumbar, 5-year warranty.|
|AKRacing Master Series Max||23″ (W) x 20.3″ (D)||5’7″ to 6’7″, 400 pounds||$563.72 on Amazon||4D arms, multifunction tilt, 5-year warranty.|
|E-Win Flash XL||22″ (W) x 20.3″ (D)||5’7″ to 6’7″, 400 pounds||$399
||4D arms, multifunction tilt, 2-year warranty.|
Concluding Advice For XL Sizes
Overweight, obese, tall, and big and tall sizes each have unique musculoskeletal challenges. Each should factor these in while choosing the perfect ergonomic chair for their needs.
- Overweight (under 6’1″ with a BMI over 25): no unique challenges except for thickness. To ensure enough space, choose a chair with flat (not bladed) seat edges.
- Obese (shorter than 6’1″ with a BMI greater than 30): often suffer from weak joints, chronic pain, and sore feet. Full-back gaming chairs provide easier, gentler posture rehabilitation.
- Tall (6’1″ or taller with a BMI under 25): vulnerable to a forward neck tilt and slouched posture. Beyond a good chair, a height-adjustable desk set to 32″ high or more will help to remedy that.
- Big and tall (6’1″ or taller with a BMI over 25): suffers from chronic pain, slouching, sore feet, and weak joints. Choose whichever seating type best fits your size.
After Deciding On A Chair
Studies have shown that many professionals struggle when working from home (WFH) for two reasons. First is a lack of ergonomic equipment. Second is sloppy usage habits.
Therefore, after deciding on a chair, make sure to address both issues. First, beyond a good chair and desk, an external screen, mouse, and keyboard will help to prevent a forward head tilt.
Then, make it a point to use your ergonomic gear properly. That means sitting in neutral postures, taking movement breaks, and getting in some exercise. That leads to this trajectory:
- Improved posture: an ergonomic setup used properly will help you to develop an aligned, healthy spine.
- More energy: good posture relieves muscular stress. That leaves tons of excess energy for other endeavors.
- Improved focus: when the body is comfortable and rested, the brain gets more power to play with.
Then, expect bonus surprises. These include weight loss, supercharged motivation, and greater well-being. Learn more:
WFH Setup Guide For Ergonomic Beginners
- Ingrid Heuch, et al. ‘Association between body height and chronic low back pain: a follow-up in the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study’, BMJ Open. 2015; 5(6): e006983, June 15, 2015. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006983, (accessed 24 June. 2022).
- Oliver Smith. ‘Mapped: The world’s tallest (and shortest) countries’. Maps and Graphics, November 12, 2019. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/the-tallest-and-shortest-countries-in-the-world/, (accessed 24 June. 2022).
- ‘How to Increase Your Height: Is There Anything I Can Do?’ Updated April 27, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-increase-height, (accessed 24 June. 2022).
- Mona Gossmann MD, et al. ‘Treating the Chronic Disease of Obesity’. Medical Clinics of North America Volume 105, Issue 6, November 2021, Pages 983-1016. doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2021.06.005, (accessed 24 June. 2022).
- Larry A. Tucker, et al. ’10-Year Weight Gain in 13,802 US Adults: The Role of Age, Sex, and Race’. Research Article ID 7652408, May 6, 2022. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2022/7652408/, (accessed 24 June. 2022).
- Andrew J Teichtahl, et al. ‘The associations between body and knee height measurements and knee joint structure’. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2012; 13: 19. Published 2012 Feb 15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3306748/, (accessed 24 June. 2022).
- Jesse Cannone. ‘Is Back Pain More Likely If You’re Tall?’ September 15, 2015. https://losethebackpain.com/is-back-pain-more-likely-if-youre-tall/, (accessed 24 June. 2022).
- Lisa Rapaport. ‘Tall people may be more prone to varicose veins’. Reuters Health, November 3, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-tallness-varicose-veins-idUSKCN1N72CA, (accessed 24 June. 2022).
- Brittany D.Bulbrook, et al. ‘Higher body mass index and body fat percentage correlate to lower joint and functional strength in working age adults’. Applied Ergonomics Volume 95, September 2021, 103453. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003687021001009, (accessed 24 June. 2022).
- Sarah P. Shultz, et al. ‘Implications of Obesity on Musculoskeletal Health’. NCMJ vol. 78, no. 5, September 22, 2017. https://www.ncmedicaljournal.com/content/ncm/78/5/326.full.pdf, (accessed 24 June. 2022).
- Serkan Tas, et al. ‘Effects of Body Mass Index on Mechanical Properties of the Plantar Fascia and Heel Pad in Asymptomatic Participants’. Foot Ankle Int. 2017 Jul;38(7):779-784, May 23, 2017. DOI: 10.1177/1071100717702463, (accessed 24 June. 2022).